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Biological control of thrips and whiteflies by a shared predator: Two pests are better than one

Messelink, G.J., Maanen, R. van, Steenpaal, S.E.F. van, Janssen, A.
Biological control 2008 v.44 no.3 pp. 372-379
Frankliniella occidentalis, Trialeurodes vaporariorum, Amblyseius, Euseius, predatory mites, biological control agents, predation, predator-prey relationships, population density, interspecific competition, insect control, Cucumis sativus, cucumbers
We studied the capacity of one species of predator to control two major pests of greenhouse crops, Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande)) and the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Westwood)). In such a one-predator-two-prey system, indirect interactions can occur between the two pest species, such as apparent competition and apparent mutualism. Whereas apparent competition is desired because it brings pest levels down, apparent mutualism is not, because it does the opposite. Because apparent competition and apparent mutualism occurs at different time scales, it is important to investigate the effects of a shared natural enemy on biological control on a time scale relevant for crop growth. We evaluated the control efficacy of the predatory mites Amblyseius swirskii (Athias-Henriot) and Euseius ovalis (Evans) in cucumber crops in greenhouse compartments with only thrips, only whiteflies or both herbivorous insects together. Each of the two predators controlled thrips, but A. swirskii reduced thrips densities the most. There was no effect of the presence of whiteflies on thrips densities. Whitefly control by each of the two predators in absence of thrips was not sufficient, yet better with E. ovalis. However, whitefly densities in presence of thrips were reduced dramatically, especially by A. swirskii. The densities of predators were up to 15 times higher in presence of both pests than in the single-pest treatments. Laboratory experiments with A. swirskii suggest that this is due to a higher juvenile survival and developmental rate on a mixed diet. Hence, better control may be achieved not only because of apparent competition, but also through a positive effect of mixed diets on predator population growth. This latter phenomenon deserves more attention in experimental and theoretical work on biological control and apparent competition.